From playing the peacemaker in one of the most hilarious comedy scenes in Tamil cinema, involving a missing banana, to playing the wife who beats to pulp her good-for-nothing husband, to adopting a cartoonish caricature for the amusement of children later on in horror comedies, there can be only one actor who comes to mind when we think of these roles - Kovai Sarala.
āKovai' Sarala, if the prefix to her name wasnāt clue enough, then the natural Coimbatore flavour in her manner of speaking will tell you more of where sheās from. She entered the industry at a time when comedy queen Manorama was relegated to picking up motherly/grandmotherly roles and it may not be an exaggeration to say that there was a dearth for female comedians in Tamil cinema at the time.
The actor is celebrating her birthday on April 7 and hereās a look at some of her best performances over the years. If you are having a bad day (and who isn't in these depressing times?), this listicle is sure to cheer your up!
Kovai Saralaās very first role was in Bhagyarajās Mundhanai Mudichu (1983) in which she played a pregnant woman. Surprised? Three years later, she played the heroās mother in Chinna Veedu, also Bhagyarajās film. Kovai Sarala, with her wide grin and easily baffled expressions, took a while to find her footing in the industry and when she did, she would not just match her counterparts on screen, but surpass them. Hereās a small list of her eight most memorable performances.
Japanil Kalyanaraman (1985)
Soon after Mundhanai Mudichu and before Karagattakaran came by, Kovai Sarala played an easily bemused woman from a village who goes on a lucky trip to Japan with her husband, played Goundamani. The two, unexpectedly (and unbelievably) win a contest and are sent on a fully funded trip to Japan to hilarious results. From trying Japanese cuisine to searching for each other on the roads of Japan, Kovai Sarala singing āMachana patheengala Jappanu naatukulleā¦ā, the young star delivered a notable performance in one of her earlier films, starring alongside Goundamani who was already a well-known comedian by then.
Kovai Sarala played the flashy dancer in Karagattakaran and even in the riot fest that involved the explosive Goundamani-Senthil combo, Kovai Sarala managed to make audiences laugh with her delivery and naive style. Remember āJapan la Jackie Chan kooptangaā¦ā?
Sathi Leelavathi (1995)
In this film, Kovai Sarala played an innocent woman called Palaniammal and was paired opposite Kamal Haasan. The starting lines of āMarugo Marugoā song from Kamal Haasanās earlier film Vetri Vizha is replugged here, and with Kovai Sarala on screen, the song only gets more enjoyable. Watching this film now will make you wonder if the Ram-Mythili tussles we saw in Kamalās later film Panchathanthiram were indeed inspired by Kovai Saralaās outbursts from Sathi Leelavathi.
Poovellaam Kettuppar (1999)
Kovai Sarala pulled off the role of a forgetful doctor, Bala Thirupurasundari, effortlessly in this film, ably assisted by actor Maadhu Balaji who played her assistant. She comes in all the crucial moments, even in the climax, and muddles it all up with her poor memory.
Although Vadivelu dressed up as a woman steals the show in this film, Kovai Sarala reels us back in with her role as a jealous lover. Kovai Sarala and Vadiveluās characters would often clash in the film to hilarious effect.
Varavu Ettana Selavu Pathana (1994) / Kaalam Maari Pochu (1996) / Virulukketha Veekkam (1999)
The actor has listed two of these three films as her personal favourites. She plays a working class woman in all these films that had a multi-star casting. In all three films, she is paired opposite Vadivelu. Interestingly, subjected to domestic violence in Varavu Ettanaā¦ Kovai Saralaās character gives it back in Kaalam Maari Pochu. This scene is popularly recalled even today. This lineup of films also reminds us of Viswanathan Ramamoorthy (2001) in which she played a character called Andal, a religious woman, and also appeared with a tonsured head.
If youāre wondering what role Kovai Sarala played in this Vijay rom-com, then weāll give you a one word clue - āSnegithanaiā. If you read that in Kovai Sarala style, then you need no reminding of just how hilarious her performance was in this film. Kovai Sarala plays a beggar in this film and falls into a relationship with Vivekās character by chance. The scene in which she sings āsnegithanaiā, in fact, is completely dark and so the actor uses just her voice modulation to make a mark in the hearts of her fans.
Although Kovai Sarala played Raghava Lawrenceās mother in Muni, its prequel, it was in Kanchana that she perfected her cartoonish caricature. Together with Devadarshini and Sriman, Kovai Sarala whips up a roar fest, made even funnier with her dialogue delivery.